More than 5,000 farmers across eight local government areas of Cross River State are to benefits from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The project is a $345 million, seven-year initiative supported by the Global Environment Facility led by the World Bank.

Disclosing this in Calabar at the state Charmbers of Cross River State Traditional Rulers Council, the Chief Technical Adviser of the United Nations, Professor Adebayo Oladipo, said the gesture will enhanced the production of Cocoa and Palm Oil in Cross River and Ondo states.

It seeks to harness the production of cocoa and oil palm while conserving and restoring forest ecosystems in the Niger Delta region of the country.

The states of Ondo and Cross River have been selected through a rigorous process as the two pilot states with the value chains of cocoa and oil palm as focus.

The GEF-7’s FOLUR-IP Project is designed to transform the Niger Delta’s cocoa and palm oil production systems and landscapes towards sustainability and resilience, delivering multiple environmental and social benefits through its compartmental activities.

The project when implemented would yield numerous benefits, such as 795,200 hectares of landscapes covered by Integrated Land Management plan, 110,000 hectares of land under sustainable practices with “at least a 20% increase in the yield of cocoa and oil palm per hectare by project closure, and 10,000 people would benefit from income diversification interventions, with a target of at least 50% women.”

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The workshop had its objectives to ensure that the involved stakeholders and partners have clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities of the project, discuss the co-financing commitments of the key partners and develop ‘strategies’ to ensure its effective and timely delivery for project implementation, and how to explore additional co-financing sources, develop the operational strategies and detailed workplan for year one, among others.

In his remarks, the Chief Technical Adviser of FAO, Professor Adebayo Olandipo, said the objective of the project is to transform the Niger Delta Cocoa and Palm Production System and landscapes towards sustainability and resilience, delivering multiple environmental and bocial benefits.

According to Professor Adebayo, the Niger Delta region is losing its rainforest at an alarming rate, with agricultural expansion, especially the expansion of cocoa and palm oil, the most important driver of deresforestation and degradation.

In her remarks, a climate change expert, Nitsimi Ogukua, said a lot of commitment is expected from the government of Cross River State on the project.

She said the project is targeting 50 percent woman and youths in the eight local government areas of Cross River State, which include Biase, Ikom, Boki, Obubura, Ogoja, Akamkpa, etc.

She said FAO is known for accountability and transparency and that the programme will not be hijack by politicians, because the project is evidence based.